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Agroecology and the social sciences: a review of engagements as contributions, synergies, and harmonies

Authors: Ryan Galt*, University of California, Davis, Natalia Pinzón, Geography Graduate Group, University of California, Davis
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Food Systems
Keywords: agroecology, social sciences, geography, interdisciplinarity, literature review
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 10:15 AM / 11:30 AM
Room: Virtual Track 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Agroecology is increasingly seen as solving many social, ecological, and socio-ecological crises in agrifood systems. This review examines the engagement of social sciences displines and fields with agroecology. Using five databases — Web of Science’s Science Citation Index Expanded (WoS SCI), Web of Science Social Sciences Citation Index (WoS SSCI), EconLit, Agricola, and CAB — we collected papers with “agroecology” (and its various English spellings) in the title, abstract, or keywords. We use WoS SCI as a proxy for publications centered in the biophysical sciences, WoS SSCI for publications centered in the social sciences, and EconLit for publications centered in economics; this yielded 5056, 1219, and 428 articles, respectively. Based on publications per year, social scientists are interfacing with agroecology more than ever. Indeed, the publication volume of social science engaged with agroecology has risen dramatically in the last decade; between zero and 16 articles were published per year until 2006, then the number rose steadily to 208 published in 2018. The ratio of biophysical science to social science publications declined to its lowest ever in 2018, 2.7:1 (compared to the annual average of 4.1:1), despite a continual rise of biophysical science papers on agroecology (552 that year, also the highest ever). In addition to more detailed quantitative metrics for specific social sciences disciplines and fields, we examine how geography, political ecology, and feminist social science have engaged agroecology, the contributions these various social science perspectives have made to the field, and key emerging directions of interdisciplinary inquiry and praxis.

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